Wilkes-Barre Area School District would again be the biggest local winner in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state education budget, nabbing $1.2 million more in state money for basic and special education subsidies.
Despite being the county’s largest district by enrollment — and in money spent each year — Hazleton Area School District would get the second biggest increase locally, with state money going up by $842,848 for basic and special education.
All told, state money for Luzerne County’s 11 districts and Tunkhannock Area in neighboring Wyoming County would rise from nearly $185.9 million to about $189.3 million, a net increase of $3.46 million.
As is usually the case, the area’s smallest district by enrollment, Northwest Area, would see the smallest dollar increase, at $28,877.
Wolf, a Democrat, campaigned in 2014 with promises to not only restore education cuts made under Gov. Tom Corbett, but to increase state money for public schools.
Through it all, Wolf has managed to increase education spending, from about $12.8 billion in 2016-17 to $13.24 billion this fiscal year — despite an extremely rocky start in his first year, when he vetoed a budget passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. That launched what became the state’s longest budget battle — 267 days without a full budget.
Last year a budget was technically passed by the June 30 legal deadline, but it lacked a mechanism for fully funding the proposed $32 billion in spending. It took until November for the Legislature to offer a plan to fill a $2.2 billion shortfall, and critics questioned some of the choices, including more legalized gambling and borrowing against the state’s share of a nationwide tobacco settlement.
Wolf’s latest proposal increases basic education state funding by $100 million and special education funding by $20 million.